November 24, 2013 / BRANDS ARE LIKE PEOPLE AND PEOPLE ARE LIKE BRANDS
November 24, 2013
If someone were to lay out your personal artifacts, what would we learn about you as a brand?
Hates Budweiser. Loves Samuel Adams. But only the original Boston Lager. Wouldn’t be caught dead in a Hyundai. Is wowed by an Audi; sizzles in a Bugatti. Dreams of curves: sexy curves of Philippe Starck headphones, the lines of a Calatrava bridge, New York’s SoHo furniture creations.
When he takes out his pen, it’s always a Zebra with a micro-fine point. Black. Never blue. And he takes out his pen a lot. Partly because visualizing things in three dimensions is one of the two things he’s really good at. The other is ideas. His test scores are off the charts when it comes to generating them.
Whenever he travels, which is often, he races to the wharf like a harbor rat, and he secretly believes that hundreds of years ago, in a former life, he was a shipbuilder—fascinated with the aerodynamics of vessels gliding through the water. Quit school at age 15 to follow his passion halfway around the world from the Netherlands to Maui, Hawaii. The surf siren called and a mad scientist followed.
Can you picture this guy and the brand he represents?
Meet Mark Raaphorst
The inner brand of Mark Raaphorst, a.k.a. “the mad scientist,” mirrors the SIC brand he created.
Mark Raaphorst shapes standup paddleboards (SUPs). To many in the SUP world he is The Guy. He’s responsible for inventing some of the most innovative technology in the industry like the Active Steering System (A.S.S.), a game-changing design that allows watermen/women to paddle on both sides of a board (when in the past you’d have to paddle on the downwind side forever). That A.S.S. engineering put Mark on the map as a design guru—someone who rethought the fundamentals and paid attention to different details about the SUP ride more than anyone else at the time. The power of his brand oozes out from every pore in his athlete’s body and every neuron firing off in his brain. From the moment he wakes up and has his first cup of espresso (never “contaminated” with cream), he is in the zone, buzzing his next perfect shape.
Mark’s personal brand is 100% shaper and his job is 100% SUP. As the founder of SIC (Sandwich Islands Composites), he lives and breathes it. He hones his senses about improving the ride, training himself in the art of observation, the natural laws of physics, the aesthetics of sexiness, and the passion behind cravability so that athletes and amateurs alike can all fall in love with the experience of being on the open ocean with nothing between themselves and the swells but one sleek, beautiful board.
Mark doesn’t consciously try to be “The Guy”, but the minute details of his life tell the story of obsession about creating the perfect ride. Although in the shop you’ll see him covered in resin stains and red dirt, the truth is Mark likes his clothing, stained or not, with just the right drape, quick-drying fabric and clean style. Which is why you’ll most likely see him in Quiksilver or Bluesmiths shorts. He’ll only wear OluKai flip-flops or New Balance shoes. And Mark admits to being compulsive about socks—when they fit right, he’ll buy dozens of the same brand (Timberland).
His music in the shop signals serious creative and technical work, starting with classical in the morning to rev up his analytical thinking about shaping better and better boards to high-energy afternoon house music to crank up the production juices in the factory, to the Juan Gabriel cool down soundtracks that end the day and nurture imagination.
Why Being a Brand Matters
To study all of Mark’s personal habits, tastes, preferences, artifacts, props, soundtracks, and other accoutrements, you can come to only one conclusion—Mark’s brand as an individual cannot be separated from his brand as a master shaper. You’d never catch him in a pair of Wranglers. Or listening to Celine Dion. Or drinking Sangria. Or heading to an American Girl store in New York City. Or wearing headphones that didn’t reek of sleek design. Or sketching without his black Zebra micro-fine pointed pen.
Every aspect of Mark’s existence signals who he is and what he’s obsessed with and that combination of brand elements fuels his life as a shaper.
Getting Inside the Head of a Mad Scientist: Curves
Of course, if you were trying to become Mark you’d have to master one core brand element that goes beyond pens and shorts and shoes—you’d have to get into his head and figure out what really makes him tick. You’d have to get out in the ocean and feel the waves and the wind and train all of your senses to tune into the elements of the “perfect ride.” And to do that, according to Mark, you’d have to become obsessed with curves.
If you were a race car designer, you’d have to watch a lot of turns around the track to come up with the concept of anti-lock brakes (that originated with Formula One racing.) If you were working on creating the next generation of hiking boots, you’d have to become an expert at what’s required for a shoe to be flexible enough to go from base camp to 8,000 feet and also engineered with perfection so that the mountain climber’s toes didn’t freeze off at the summit. Mark has translated that way of thinking to waves and wind:
“A lot of my work comes down to curves. You want to give the bottom contour of a board enough curves so it’s maneuverable but yet you want to keep it straight so it’s easier to get going. You need to think about width to give a rider stability but not bog him down with extra baggage. And you need to think about weight. If a board’s too light it can be fragile and act nervous and will not have any inertia, but if it’s too heavy it will be hard to get it going.”
The only way Mark figures out how to train his shaper’s soul is to get out in the water himself and watch the paddler move. Over and over and over. That art of observation is key to his personal brand and the SIC brand.
If you morph the Zebra pen, the Timberland socks, the Audi engineering, Bugatti sexiness, the energy of house music’s steady beat, the lines of a Calatrava bridge, the sleekness of Philippe Starck headphones and the soul of a river rat, you’d come up with a master shaper. Those brand elements paint the picture of a person and that person conjures up components of the product he creates.
What can we all learn about our own personal brands and the details in our lives that tell the story of who we are, what drives us, and the work we do?